Interview Basics

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Student on placement in the operating theatre Whether you plan to become a doctor, dentist or physician assistant, part of the admission process may be an interview. Some people are naturally good at interviews while others start sweating at the first thought of being interviewed. Even if you are used to going on interviews for jobs, interviewing to get accepted into the school of your dreams can make anyone nervous. But with the right attitude and a little prep work, you can learn how to interview well.

  • First Impressions Matter

You may already know how important a first impression is. Think about how you get an impression of someone based on what they wear and how they act when you first meet them. Sometimes the first impression you have about someone is not accurate. Although that may be true, med school admissions panels don’t get to spend a lot of time with each applicant. Your first impression as an applicant is critical.

In order to make a good first impression, you have to look professional, which means wearing dress clothes. You don’t have to spend a ton of money, but you should be clean, neat and dressed in office type clothes.

Being late and keeping the panel waiting is a sure way to make a bad first impression. Always allow plenty of time for traffic problems or issues parking. Be courteous and polite. For instance, it may be old-fashioned to wait to sit until you are asked, but good manners go a long way.

Although it is natural to be nervous, take a few deep breaths and relax. Being friendly and not too stiff is important. If you are a little nervous, don’t worry about it showing. Interviewers are human too and understand the pressure you are under. So don’t stress if your hands are a bit sweaty or your voice is shaky. As you get further into the interview, you may relax.

Always be genuine. Keep in mind, it may be acceptable to engage in small talk. Follow the lead of the interview panel. Just chatting with the people interviewing you can break the ice, make you seem personable and help you feel more at ease.

  • Do Your Research

Before any interview, it is important to have at least a little information on the school you are interviewing with. A lot of information about a school can be found online. Some things you may want to make note of include new programs being offered, awards the school has won and expansion plans.

During the course of your interview, you may need to answer questions, such as why you want to attend that particular school. If you have done your research, you probably have a list of reasons why you are interested in a certain school.

While you are doing your research, jot down a few questions that come to mind. At the end of your interview, you will likely be given the opportunity to ask a few things. Having a couple of prepared questions will prevent you from struggling to come up with something.

  • Good Attitude is Everything

During an interview, it is important to have an upbeat, positive attitude. Being positive and optimistic is a great quality to have. Being optimistic does not mean that every experience in your life was great. In fact, certain situations, such as watching a loved one go through an illness, may have led to your interest in medicine. 

Having a good attitude means finding the positive in a situation and dealing with the cards you were dealt. You want to leave the interviewer with the impression that you are excited to be there and happy for the opportunity.

  • Be Aware of Your Body Language

You can convey a lot without saying a word. Body language is an important part of making a good impression. Body language can give the impression you are friendly and upbeat. In other cases, body language can convey boredom, hostility or superiority. For example, be aware of how you are sitting during the interview. Sitting with your arms crossed in front of your chest may make you seem closed off. If you are slumping in your seat, you may come across as bored, which is obviously not the impression you want to give.

It is difficult to be aware of every hand gesture you use when talking or many times you smile. Don’t go crazy focusing on your body language. Instead, just keep a few small things in mind, such as making eye contact and smiling when appropriate. Just don’t go overboard. Staring continuously at someone and smiling may come across as odd, which is not what you are going for. The bottom-line is be natural.  

  • Confidence is Good; Conceit is Not

You want to sell yourself to whichever school you are interviewing with. Keep in mind, it is a fine line between singing your own praises and bragging. It is essential to mention the accomplishments, which make you a great fit for the school. After all, you want an admissions committee to know why you are a good candidate.

But there is a way to do it without coming across as arrogant. For instance, when you mention your successes, try to avoid sounding conceited. Although you may have worked very hard to succeed, others may have also contributed to your success. Being humble and acknowledging the role others had in your achievements may be a good idea. 

  • Show Your Uniqueness

Regardless of whether you are applying to dental, medical or physician assistant school, your interview is a critical part of the application process. Your application may contain information on your grades, test scores and activities you participated in. But your interview is a chance to show how you are unique.

Think about what sets you apart from other candidates. Why would you make a good doctor or dentist? It may be completely appropriate to tell stories and give examples. For instance, if a certain life experience led you to your desire to work in the medical field, it makes sense to discuss it. 

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